Why local content, diversity and live sport should be plan A, plan B and plan C for brands
In a shifting, consolidating landscape, programming that connects with Australians wherever they are represents the closest thing to a sure bet for brands. The same is true for publishers.
“Investing in Australian content that reflects the stories of Australians back to our audience, that’s our point of difference,” says Hamish Turner, Nine's Director of Programming. “Live audience, audience at scale that consumes content in a temporal manner, and Australian stories, they are the four big things for us – and that won’t change.”
Nine’s slate for the rest of the year reflects that commitment – returning favourites such as The Block and Australian Ninja Warrior, and five newly commissioned shows that will bridge this year into next. All different, but “all very ‘integratable’,” says Turner, giving brands further avenues to explore, and “diversity utility”. Which may prove useful in world likely to be disrupted by Covid for some time yet.
Diversity of slate
The delayed Australian Open is a case in point. “That forced us into being quite fluid through that period,” says Turner, which is where Nine’s pandemic focus on “utility of schedule” came into effect.
“What we meant by that is having pieces in the schedule that we could pick up and pull out, and having a real diverse mix of shows, so that you went from Married at First Sight into Lego Masters,” says Turner.
“So the show that created a lot of noise, a lot of controversy, into a show that is much loved by families. We've then gone into Celebrity Apprentice, which hasn't been on our screens for a long time, but again, it provides a very different style of show for our audience,” he adds.
“So that was that ‘diversity utility’, having the confidence that we could pull brands out and put them in if we needed to.”
In the end, the delayed Australian Open contributed to a “phenomenal start to the year,” says Turner. Meanwhile, MAFS smashed expectations across platforms, reaching audience numbers on the 9Now platform that would put many linear shows to shame.
“It is an absolute phenomenon,” says Turner. “There is nothing else that is actually reaching or delivering on the same level as Married at First Sight.”
While MAFS can divide opinion, that’s a true reflection of Australian society and daily life, suggests Turner. “It's quite confronting. And I think that's what actually talks to that audience. You don't know what's coming next. And the audience came in droves.”
Sport: reach everybody
That level of unpredictably and drama is perhaps trumped only by live sport – the backbone of Australian society and a guaranteed engagement delivery mechanism for advertisers.
Nine, Nine Now and Stan Sport are working closely with the sporting codes to ensure the broadest possible audiences – with audience growth across platforms a cornerstone of the plan.
“Sport is a total TV play,” says Turner, pointing to the current French Open as a template for Nine’s approach.
“There’s linear, everything is available on Stan Sport ad free, but you can also get that live linear experience on 9Now. For us, and for brands, it’s about engaging audiences across multiple platforms,” he adds.
Meanwhile, the sports codes, clubs and brands know they need to be free-to-air – or suffer.
“We've seen sporting codes that have gone behind paywalls, and it's been to the detriment of those sports,” says Turner.
“That ability to be in the free space, to connect to all Australians, is so fundamental in terms of driving success for those brands moving forward,” he adds.
“Nine is in a unique position whereby we can offer that cross-platform opportunity to brands. We’re going into it together to grow brands, to grow the codes and grow audiences.”
For brands looking to connect with Australians through uniquely Australian content, that approach guarantees diversity of audience as well as diversity of utility.
Advertisers interested in getting the inside track on Nine’s five newly commissioned shows, or to understand cross screen opportunities around The Block, Australian Ninja Warrior, Beauty and The Geek, and Parental Guidance, should “pick up the phone,” suggests Turner.
Sometimes a direct call to action is the most effective.